How to Choose a Quality Call Center that Fits Your Business Needs

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Rob Boirun
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There are a number of advantages to hiring an outsourced call center, even if you don’t think your company has a particularly high call volume. Many companies choose to outsource their call center needs to help key staff focus on higher level tasks, to track and improve systems for customer service, for sales needs, and even just to provide reliable human contact for customers. And they can do all that while saving money on training, equipment and communications infrastructure.

Choosing the right call center for your business needs, however, can be tricky. Here are five tips for choosing the right call center for your business needs:

1) Identify Your Communications Needs

This is the very first step to making the right call center choice. You must have a clear understanding of the type of communications support you’re looking for. Do you want 24 hour coverage? Do you need extensive problem-solving for customer service or technical support services? What about sales? Is there an order-taking function that would help you? Or would basic call answering and call routing be useful?

Think about how these functions are handled now. What could you achieve if you shifted the burden to a call center? Talk with your team– if given the chance to rely on a call center, how would they benefit? Once you understand exactly what you’re looking for, you’re on the road to comparing companies so that you can choose the best one for you.

2) Call Center Reputation and Performance

SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 03:  U.S. Chief Informat...

Do some research on the calls centers you’re interested in before calling them directly. You want to make sure that they are an established call center that’s been in business for a while. Do they have clients with businesses your size? If so, what do they have to say about them? Do you have access to their references? Are their calls handled here in the US? If not, is it an area where English is a dominant language?

If they are a reputable firm, they will be more than happy to provide this information. You should also be able to find positive information about them with the Better Business Bureau. Don’t be put off if you do find some complaints– every business is likely to have some, but consider the nature and number of complaints, and how recent they are. Everyone makes mistakes (especially low-wage staff) but the value is in how they fix it and avoid problems down the road.

3) Account Management and Tracking

It’s important that you be assigned your own account manager. A quality call center will ensure that every client has a dedicated account manager that you can contact directly. They should also have a support team for day-to-day issues that will help resolve any technical problems or administrative questions you have in a timely manner.

Your account manager will also be able to provide you with statistics and reports so that you can track progress, often in the form of a daily report, or even real time dashboard. Some services even have call center management modules that you can use from your desktop to listen in and see call activity as it’s happening. That level might be a bit much for your price point, but if your call center can’t provide you with excellent customer service, they won’t be able to provide it to your customers either.

4) Meet The Team and Test Them Out

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RDNS Customer Service Representative (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Find out who will be in charge of your outsourced call center. Who are these people? How were they trained? Get to know them. Test their services. Find out how you can make calls that will route to these people to test the way they provide customer service. Have different people in your company call in with different scenarios. Test out their services to make sure their personalities and problems solving skills match the reputation of your business. Don’t go flipping out the first time someone screws up a call– know their plan for fixing the error and use that teachable moment to see how they improve.

These are things you need to know before you put the reputation of your business in your call centers hands. Remember that they are representing you. Your customers don’t know (and shouldn’t know or care) that the service is outsourced. The customer service they provide will be the service your business will become known for.

One way to know just how well they will work for you is the extent of their on-boarding process to make you a client and prepare their operators to handle your calls. The more they demand of you in sharing information and giving them details upon which to train their people, the more confidence you can have. They should be fairly demanding of you, because they know what it takes to get the job done. If it all seems too easy, they’re probably glossing over a lot of details.

5) Ability to Communicate with You

Just as it’s not your customers’ jobs to understand the technology behind what you do, the same goes for your call center. Your account manager should be able to explain the technology and processes to you in way that you can understand. If they continuously explain things to you as if your trade is a call center, they don’t care much about how you think or feel.

This is the same way they will handle you if an issue arises, and it’s likely the attitude is common throughout the organization. If you don’t understand what they’re saying before you contract their services, you surely won’t understand once you’ve already signed on the dotted line. An account manager who cares about making sure that you’re comfortable now, will be sure to care later. His or her goal will be to continuously help you in order to ensure that you remain happy.

Bonus Tip: Call Center Customization

Customization may or may not matter in your case. Many call centers have more affordable packages that offer very little customization, but deliver a clear set of services according to best practices. Sometimes, it’s important for you, the client, to learn how call center functions work, so that you aren’t needlessly demanding changes to solid services that could actually work very well for your business.

On the other hand, if your needs don’t quite fit into a certain template, you may need a more in-depth solution, which requires flexibility from your vendor. The last thing you want to worry about is going through the process of finding and hiring a new call center all over again because either you couldn’t take advantage of their programs, or they couldn’t adapt to you. Entrepreneurs can be a fussy bunch, which is a huge asset, but it can also be a hindrance. If it doesn’t seem like any call center can give you what you need, the problem might not be with them!

As a busy business owner, the whole purpose of outsourcing your customer service needs is so that you can put your full attention into running your business. So, take the time to do the necessary research and choose a quality call center that fits your business from the start. A thorough vetting process won’t happen overnight, nor should it take more than three to four weeks to be online and answering call for you.

Special thanks for contributing to this article goes to Neal Lacy who works for United Call Center, an answering service in Lake Havasu City, AZ. He is an expert on call center outsourcing and writes widely about telemarketing in general.